Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Grand Opening of the Koblerville Youth Learning Center

This Koblerville Youth Learning Center was built years ago, but stood empty because of lack of funding to hire personnel and to fund its operations. This facility is located at the Koblerville Substation off the main Koblerville Road on Saipan. A year ago, my office, family, and the Parole Board and its volunteers adopted this substation as part of Beautify CNMI!'s "Adopt a Spot" Program. We have taken turns mowing the lawns and picking up the trash with other hearty Beautify CNMI! volunteers, such as FMI, Team Chura Talo, Latter Day Saints, Kobler Elementary School, Southern High School Manta Ray JROTC cadets and National Honor Society members, et al. Community members have also been coming out to help us when they see us beautifying the area. It makes me happy to see that they are developing a sense of "community ownership" in this common area -- as they rightfully should!

Looking at the Center today, I marvel when I think back to the day we set out to reclaim the Substation from the tangan tangan jungle it had become. The area had gotten so neglected and overgrown that you couldn't even see the substation nor the basketball court from the main road in Koblerville. Click here to read one of my earlier posts on this subject. Not only is this Center now open, but the community has also begun using this area for their walking exercises, which is great.

There's still more work that needs to be done. I am working with the folks at DLNR to turn this into a community park. Let me paint a mental visual for you. We need to reseed the area so that we can have those fine grass to spread out our blankets on when we picnic and so we can also have grass that we don't have to mow every week in rainy season; we need more shady trees, a botanical garden, a walking path around the garden, benches to sit on and read quietly under the tall shady trees, a children's playset, etc. Get the picture?

And, yes, why do I keep referring to this as a "substation"? Well, I remember years and years ago when we still had enough government funding to actually have a fire station on this southernmost tip of the island. Like everything else, budgetary cuts forced the closure of the station. BUT, I remain optimistic that one day, the fire engines will roar out of this substation once again. We have to remain positive. So don't give up hope 'cause I won't.

When I first assumed office over a year ago last January 2006, I set a goal to work on getting this facility opened for the public. But, it sure wasn't easy. In fact, at times, it seemed downright discouraging. The a/c was stolen, the facility had been vandalized several times, and people were beginning to use the area as an illegal dump site. Poor Jimmy, the lone maintenance man, did the best he could to patch up the broken windows and secure the place. I recall standing in the middle of the hot Center with Jimmy, Mike Manglona, and my staff right after another broken-window incident last year just shaking our heads. Of course, add to all this is the perpetual lack of funding, which translates into lack of manpower and operational funds. But, I continued to bug Youth Affairs Director Mike Manglona (on the left) to transfer Ken Concepcion (KC Lanchero) from the Gualo Rai Youth Center (which had undergone a similar transformation under KC's guidance) to the Koblerville facility. I didn't see a need to reinvent the wheel. Besides, it was critical to breathe life into the Center as I realized that we had many worthy community programs awaiting implementation, but none of that would happen until we opened the Center.

Well, our wish finally came true about almost a year later. I ran into KC back in late April. He came up to me and excitedly informed me that he had started at the Koblerville Center that day and was busy setting things in motion the Grand Opening and Family Fun Nights. I subsequently found out that he was working with Jeff Santos of Jett's Promotions that night to make this Grand Opening possible. Jeff has pledged to donate 10% of the proceeds to all the Youth Centers. Thank you Jeff Santos for your generous heart!
KC and Mike have done an incredible job of bringing this facility to life. The man amkos (Chamorro word for elders) are also working at this facility and some Workforce Investment kids are also assigned to work her for the summer.
Taking part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the Koblerville Youth Learning Center. L-R: SAA Esther Fleming, First Lady Josie Fitial, Rep. Cinta Kaipat, Rep. Joe Guerrero, Koblerville Youth Center Director KC Concepcion, NMHC Director Josh Sasamoto, and Youth Affairs Director Mike Manglona.

Me and first lady Josie Fitial. Others behind us are Remy Buniag (in blue) and Rose Pangelinan, head of Women's Affairs.

That's Jack Omar, Director of the Legislative Bureau, and Danny Buniag, Remy's husband.

Angelo and KC in the audience.
Josh Sasamoto, head of NMHC, and Rep. Joe Guerrero in striped shirt.

Dennis Cabrera of my office modeling his Beautify CNMI! shirt. :) See? He can't stop smiling.

Carmen Sablan and a young friend happy to be at the ceremonies. Carmen has offered to volunteer her time to tutor at the Center. Thanks, Carmen!

John Dax Moreno -- one of my favorite people! Always ready with a smile on his face and that friendly voice as he greets you warmly everytime. Drop by one of the Outreach tables at the Family Fun Night and say hello to John and the rest of the good folks volunteering to bring you some really good FREE information about health and other sorts of good stuff!

Officer Pete Guerrero also on hand to partake in the Opening Ceremonies. The DARE and LEEP Programs (including the JPOs) will also use this center. Fire personnel were also on hand. Thanks for being there, everyone!

Angelo concentrating on what KC and Mike were saying.
Obviously, the Governor's Office was very supportive of this endeavor, so our thanks to them. Many other folks, too numerous to mention here, also contributed to making this day possible. Many thanks to all the major Sponsors, PTI, Jetts Promotions, Youth Affairs, and all of you -- you know who you are. Mike, KC, Jeff, Jimmy, my staff (Daisie, Dennis & Kyle), the Beautify team.